Advent 4 (Rorate Coeli), 2014
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
December 21, 2014
Central Passage
Philippians 4:4-7

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice!

No doubt we are all asked from time to time why we keep going to church. Haven’t we learned it all by now? What more could possibly be said that hasn’t already been said? Or my personal favorite, “I don’t have to go to church to be forgiven.” That’s nice. Way to not listen to the Prophet like Moses who has been raised up for us, Jesus Himself who says that those that don’t gather to Him scatter. Oh, I know, it’s popular to say that gathering to Jesus is nothing more than faith. Sure, but that faith isn’t simply thoughts about Jesus, which is what most people treat it as. That faith is clinging to Jesus who said “take, eat; this is my body” and “take, drink; this cup is my blood.”

We don’t come to church primarily to learn. We come to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice! Not that we don’t learn things, but learning isn’t the reason we’re here. Learning isn’t the reason you read your Bible. If leaning is the reason then those people are right. Shouldn’t we know it by now? Sure, there’s always some tidbit to learn, some obscure story we’d not heard yet or forgotten, mostly from 1 and 2 Kings or 1 or 2 Chronicles, but for the most part we really do have a good handle on the stories of the Bible. Head knowledge is not the goal of the Christian life and the Bible is not a theological primer or a book of systematic theology.

Too many of us – that is, to many of us Christians – think it is, though. Which is why many who claim to be Christian either don’t come to church very often and when we do we want the preacher to teach us something new; to have some new way to say something or some new little nugget we can tuck away in our “learned that at church” file. Which leads us to really miss the point of this divine gathering, this holy convocation; the real point which is to rejoice in the Lord.

So what’s going on in your life these days? The same ‘ol, same ‘ol? Unpaid bills, medical troubles, family troubles, divorce, child rebellion, gossip, slander, too many pokers in the fire. Yup. We’re all the same. Our lives are only different from one another’s in externals but truly they no different. Which is why we are hardly ever wrong when we knowingly chuckle as we say to one another, “I know what you mean,” in response to one another’s woes and troubles. We do know what they mean even if not in the particularities but in the general restlessness and struggles of life.

Restlessness. That’s part of the curse of sin. To wander to and fro in this dessert wasteland never finding rest for our souls. So we search for rest, for quiet respite in an often violent and storm-tossed life. Our search is good. It is the search of man of enter again into the Garden of Eden, to find a cool place to stop and rest one’s head from the weariness of this life. All mankind seeks such a place. Some search for it in vacations and money. Others search for it in TV and Lazy-Boy recliners. Others search for it in drugs. Some – probably true of most Christians try to find Eden in morality, thinking that if we just behave the right way and say the right things then our souls will be at peace and our lives will be better ordered. But it doesn’t work. None of it works. The most moral person is still betrayed and even betrays others. Nothing finds us rest from our restlessness.

But you know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. You know that there is no place on earth for the Son of Man to rest His head. You know that the people of God are sojourners in a foreign land, wanderers through the dessert. You know that whatever oasis this dessert may offer will not satisfy. It will dry up and be gone and you’ll be off in search of another.

But the Lord is your oasis, and He is a well that does not dry up that you may drinking deeply and be satisfied. He quiets your restlessness because He knows your restlessness is not about being too busy or about being overextended or underfunded. Your restlessness is about dying and others dying around you. So the Son of God came to give life, abundant life!

And the life He gives is eternal life. Therefore, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice!

Your life, the life of Christ you live – for the life you live is not yours but Christ’s – transcends this mortal plane. Which means that Christ will not make things of this life satisfactory. That’s often a misconception. We think that because Christ is our refuge and rest, then once we know Him we will find contentment and satisfaction in the things of this life. And we are confused and let down when even after we have tasted the Lord and known that He is good, the things of this life are still bitter and hard to swallow. But the Lord does not give us a hunger that can be satisfied in earthly things but only with heavenly things, with Christ Himself.

So that you read your Bible and say your prayers not to learn something new, but to rest and float in Christ who is your life. You come to church – attending this divine and holy gathering – not to learn some trick to living the Christian life (there are no tricks or applications or programs or 3-point bullet point sermons that satisfy) but to drink deeply of Christ and rejoice in Him. You come to the Divine Service to rejoice in the Lord, not to find out how to make this life work for here’s a clue: this life won’t work. Only the life of Christ works.

Therefore, rejoice in the Lord always because He gives you new and abundant life, eternal life. Rejoice in the Lord always because the Lord is at hand and your salvation has come. Rejoice in the Lord always because He comes not to condemn but to save. Rejoice in the Lord always because He comes to give you the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice in the Lord always because He makes His Father your Father and breathes in you the breath of Life, which is His Spirit.

Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice! And let your reason be known to all: the Lord is at hand!\

+ In Nomine Iesu +